An Eccentric, Indescribable Bounty (PASSAGE DU CINÉMA, 4992)

 First of all, what is it?

Passage du cinéma, 4992

165 x 240 mm. PlanoPak Weiß 50 gr. (Papyrus). 992 pages.
ISBN 978-2-9544708-0-1. 35 euros. Septembre 2013.

Composition, choix des fragments et montage : Annick Bouleau
Conception graphique : Le Théâtre des Opérations
Édition : Ansedonia, association Loi 1901

“the only book to recount the history of cinema” — Jean-Luc Godard, in the English-language pressbook for Goodbye to Language, p. 22

Not simply a book, but an interactive, multimedia art project by French experimental filmmaker and teacher Annick Bouleau (you can go here for her extensive filmography), the centerpiece of which is a book in French, a copy of which Bouleau was kind enough to send to me. (For the many other aspects of this project and her work, one could easily spend days navigating Bouleau’s web site.) It took her a decade to assemble it.

What are the contents of this book (seen below in manuscript form)?

A title page, dedication, acknowledgements, Introduction (“Mode d’emploi”), Table of Contents (an alphabetical listing of hundreds of topics, from “abandon” to “zoom,” with corresponding page numbers), and a one-page reader’s manual (“Vade-mecum du lecteur”), followed by 967 double-column pages of 4992 entries. 

 What are these entries?Read more »

The “Presents” of Michael Snow

I conducted two interviews with Michael Snow in the early 1980s. The first of these, commissioned by Film Comment‘s Richard Corliss (who sent me to Toronto in order to do it), was about Snow’s film Presents and ran in the magazine’s May-June 1981 issue. The second was commissioned by Simon Field’s excellent English magazine Afterimage. Both of these interviews were delightful experiences for me, and I feel privileged to have been treated by Snow during this period as a friend. (For a short while, I used to visit him once a year, whenever I came to the Toronto International Film Festival, and loved getting stoned with him — and then, most often, going to Chinatown for dinner.) —J.R.

The “Presents” of Michael Snow

A Breathless Intro

Lower Manhattan, 1981, the opening of a Canadian gallery, the onset of spring. Michael Snow’s photography/sculpture show at The 49th Parallel commences with Plus Tard (1977) – twenty-five lovely photographs, blurred and/or in focus, composing a critical/narrative tour of landscape paintings by the Group of Seven in Canada’s National Gallery. I speak to Snow for the first time since last June, when we met at a publication party for Regina Cornwell’s Snow Seen: The Films and Photographs of Michael Snow (PMA Books, $19.95); the second time since accidentally encountering him in Toronto in fall ‘78, when he invited me to attend one of his regular sessions with his free jazz group, CCMC; the third and fourth times since the Edinburgh Festival in late summer ’75 and ’76, when he premiered his last two films.… Read more »

Critical Distance [on CONTEMPT]

From the Chicago Reader (September 5, 1997). — J.R.

Contempt

Rating **** Masterpiece

Directed and written by Jean-Luc Godard

With Brigitte Bardot, Michel Piccoli, Jack Palance, Fritz Lang, Giorgia Moll, and Godard.

Almost exactly 33 years ago, in October 1964, the critical reception of Jean-Luc Godard’s widest American release of his career and his most expensive picture to date was overwhelmingly negative. But now that Contempt, showing this week at the Music Box, is being rereleased as an art film — in a brand-new print that’s three minutes longer — the critical responses have been almost as overwhelmingly positive. It’s tempting to say in explanation that we’re more sophisticated in 1997 than we were in 1964 — that we’ve absorbed or at least caught up with some of Godard’s innovations — but I don’t think this adequately or even correctly accounts for the difference in critical response. Despite all the current reviews that treat Le mépris as if it were some form of serene classical art, it’s every bit as transgressive now as it was when it first appeared, and maybe more so. But because it’s being packaged as an art movie rather than a mainstream release — because Godard is a venerable master of 66 rather than an unruly upstart of 33 — we have different expectations.… Read more »

Snowbound: A Dialogue with a Dialogue

This is the second of two interviews I’ve had with Michael Snow. (The first, “The `Presents‘ of Michael Snow,” can be found elsewhere on this site.) Commissioned by Simon Field, it ran in the Winter 1982/83 issue (no. 11) of the excellent English magazine Afterimage, a special issue called “Sighting Snow,” and it concerns both So Is This and Presents. I’ve incorporated some but not all of the additions from the version of this article that was reprinted in my book Film: The Front Line 1983 (Arden Press). I regret some of the hectoring tone of my political rhetoric here, and it became clear to me after Film: The Front Line 1983 was published that Snow objected to some of this rhetoric in the book even more, thus curtailing some of our friendship that had prevailed beforehand. – -J.R.

Snowbound: A Dialogue with a Dialogue

By Jonathan Rosenbaum

A few specifics about what follows. Last September 15th, I taped an interview with Michael Snow at his home in Toronto.… Read more »

Pieces of Masterpieces [MEDEA & SUNDAY]

From the Chicago Reader (September 26, 1997). — J.R.

sunday-1997

Medea

Rating *** A must see

Directed by Lars von Trier

Written by Carl Dreyer, Preben Thomsen, and von Trier

With Kirsten Olesen, Udo Kier, Henning Jensen, Solbjaig Hojfeldt, and Prehen Lerdorff Rye.

Sunday

Rating *** A must see

Directed by Jonathan Nossiter

Written by James Lasdun and Nossiter

With David Suchet, Lisa Harrow, Jared Harris, Larry Pine, and Joe Grifasi.

sunday2


It’s been disconcerting to read, over the past several weeks, of no fewer than four Hollywood projects in the works that purport to be by and/or about Orson Welles. Three of these are based on Welles scripts that he never found the money to produce: The Big Brass Ring (an original with a contemporary setting), The Dreamers (an adaptation of two Isak Dinesen stories), and The Cradle Will Rock (an autobiographical script set in the 30s). Yet all have been extensively rewritten, and the fourth — as recently reported by Todd McCarthy in Daily Variety – is a series of whole-cloth inventions about the making of Citizen Kane, presumably with a few facts thrown in, called RKO 281, written by Chicago playwright John Logan.

Why is all this money, effort, and media attention being expended on “celebrating” Welles when nobody is showing the slightest interest in making available unseen Welles features like Don Quixote and The Other Side of the Wind?… Read more »

The Vision of the Conquered

This appeared in the Chicago Reader (February 21, 1992), and is reprinted in my 1997 collection Movies as Politics. — J.R.

RHAPSODY IN AUGUST

*** (A must-see)

Directed and written by Akira Kurosawa

With Sachiko Murase, Hisashi Igawa, Mie Suzuki, Tomoko Ohtakara, Mitsunori Isaki, Hidetaka Yoshioka, and Richard Gere.

Next month, Akira Kurosawa will be celebrating his 82nd birthday. Having long outlived the two other supreme masters of the Japanese cinema — Kenji Mizoguchi, who died in 1956, and Yasujiro Ozu, who died in 1963 — he bears the handicap of living on in an era that clearly seems remote and alien to him, despite the fact that his work has enjoyed much more currency in the 80s and early 90s than that of any of his near-contemporaries.


I’ve always been somewhat slow to appreciate the mastery of Kurosawa in relation to the works of Mizoguchi and Ozu, perhaps in part because I started off on the wrong footing. The first Kurosawa film I ever saw was Rashomon (1950), the single movie that was most responsible for introducing the western world to the Japanese cinema, and, as it happens, I saw it as a teenager only after reading the two short stories by Ryunosuke Akutagawa that it was based on.… Read more »

Notes on THE WHITE SHEIK

My liner notes for the Criterion DVD (2003). If memory serves, this was probably the first such essay that I wrote for producer Issa Clubb. — J.R.

ORSON WELLES: Fellini is essentially a small-town boy who’s never really come to Rome. He’s still dreaming about it. And we should all be very grateful for those dreams. In a way, he’s still standing outside looking in through the gates. The force of La Dolce Vita comes from its provincial innocence. It’s so totally invented.

PETER BOGDANOVICH: Maybe the “small-town” aspect is why I like I Vitelloni most of all his films.

WELLES: After The White Sheik, it’s the best of all.

Welles’ preference for The White Sheik (1952), Federico Fellini’s first solo feature, over all the others is likely to raise a few eyebrows. Critically speaking, it’s one of the Italian maestro’s most neglected works. In his The Italian Cinema, Pierre Leprohon wrote that it “seems to have been a kind of liquidation of the past in preparation for the emergence of the Fellinian universe, a chance for the author to work off his hatred and rancors.”

Most critics haven’t been so harsh; a more common verdict is to see this as an apprentice work, a sketch of the Fellinian splendors to come.… Read more »

Introduction to the (forthcoming) Iranian Edition of MOVIE MUTATIONS by Jonathan Rosenbaum & Adrian Martin

Reposted in order to include the cover of the soon-to-appear Iranian edition (at the begining) and Adrian’s latest book (at the end). — J.R.

Revue trafic t.24: Revue Trafic

movie_mutations

Movie Mutations Spanish edition cover

 

May 19, 2014

Dearest Adrian,

I guess it must seem excessive, starting off a book composed largely of letters with yet another letter –- and rounding off a neat dozen of them with an unlucky thirteenth in the bargain. Skeptics who might find the following correspondence too chummy and cozy for comfort are apt to be equally or even more irritated by this Preface, but I can’t see any way out of this dilemma. And the same problem has applied to subsequent translations of these letters, originally written in four separate languages, into four others—Croatian, Dutch, Italian, and now Persian—and often accompanied or followed by new letters by younger cinephiles with different tastes and orientations.

Considering that the first and last of the dozen letters by nine individuals that follow, written respectively in April 1997 and March 2002, are already mine, what could I hope to add in an introduction to make them more user-friendly to the world   outside our artificially constructed little circle? To which someone -– meaning any reader –- might reply, “Well, for starters, you might try addressing the reader outside this circle.” And of course I could –- but only at the cost of diluting the spirit of friendship and intimacy now bridging eight languages and over a dozen countries, a kind of togetherness that this exercise was intended to foster.Read more »

The Constant Compromise (GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK & CAPOTE)

From the October 21, 2005 Chicago Reader. — J.R.

Good Night, and Good Luck

** (Worth seeing)

Directed by George Clooney

Written by Clooney and Grant Heslov

With David Straithairn, Clooney, Robert Downey Jr., Patricia Clarkson, Frank Langella, Ray Wise, Heslov, Jeff Daniels, and Dianne Reeves

Capote

*** (A must see)

Directed by Bennett Miller

Written by Dan Futterman

With Philip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener, Clifton Collins Jr., Chris Cooper, Bruce Greenwood, Bob Balaban, Mark Pellegrino, and Amy Ryan

Good Night, and Good Luck and Capote view journalism as an intricate mix of principles, bravado, and negotiation. Working in a minefield, their star journalists are victims of their vocations. Good Night, and Good Luck, set in the early 50s, celebrates Edward R. Murrow’s bravery, eloquence, and sense of justice in challenging Joseph McCarthy at the height of his power — a kind of heroism that evokes John Wayne’s in a western like Rio Bravo (a movie I cherish, though its view of good and evil is similarly unshaded). Good Night, and Good Luck – named for Murrow’s sign-off line — also explores how internal politics at CBS were shaped by the network’s relations with its sponsors. The victimization of Murrow can be seen in his early death from lung cancer — his chain smoking, like James Agee’s and Albert Camus’, was somehow connected in the public mind with his moral seriousness — and in the way his weekly show, See It Now, was bumped to a Sunday-afternoon slot after he challenged McCarthy.… Read more »